Sarah Marshall is passionate about helping her community and eating foods that grow locally. She grew up watching her mother jar and can fresh foods from their home garden and developed an appreciation for eating seasonally and locally. After a career as a social worker, she decided to move into the business world, with a continued focus on the health of local communities. And so Marshall’s Haute Sauce was born. Today the Portland, Oregon-based mompreneur is still making all her sauces by hand from locally sourced seasonal ingredients – and most importantly she’s passing on the tradition to her daughter.
Marshall’s story, as told to The Story Exchange 1,000+ Stories Project:
I grew up in Oregon, surrounded by the most beautiful agriculture. My earliest memories are of gardening and canning with my mother. In every home we lived in, my mom had a garden and canned the food we grew. It shaped who I am today, and I wanted my daughter to have a similar experience. I started Marshall’s Haute Sauce to highlight and preserve Oregon agriculture naturally, and encourage others to do the same. I built the business around a mission to encourage a socially conscious community by promoting and teaching farming, cooking, food preservation, and food waste prevention.
Before I started Marshall’s Haute Sauce I was a social worker. I spent years working with families, in the non-profit sector. I wanted to continue to focus on healthy communities via food. It was essential for me to be connected to my community while promoting the values I care about including farming, preserving, and local supply chains. I wanted to be part of the farmers market community, interact in a safe and positive way, and teach people to can and preserve food while being mindful of food waste. I can’t fix all the problems in my community, but I can do my part to make it fun, healthy, educational, and encouraging. I define my success as being able to do these things alongside my partner, with my daughter in tow.
My biggest success is sticking by the values I originally put in place. My sauces are not just telling my story, they are telling the story of what is happening in Oregon right now. My flavors come from the seasons. I didn’t just create Serrano Ginger lemongrass- that flavor came to be because Serrano’s, ginger and lemongrass were all available from Groundwork Organic farm at the same time. When I tell people about the sauce I also tell them to go meet the farmers who grew the product, connect with them- know why I chose them and their beautiful produce. I like to explore new ingredients and make things that haven’t been done before. I recently created a sauce with Dulse seaweed harvested from the Oregon coast, I dehydrate it and it gives the Charred Chive Dulse sauce this beautiful Umami you would expect from fish sauce, but it is vegan. People love the story that comes along with the sauce- it makes them feel more connected. Sticking by the value to honor our local farmers keeps my heart full, and my mind busy coming up with new exciting flavors.
My biggest challenge is remembering to balance my life and my business. Our commercial kitchen is on the bottom floor of our house, making it hard to “leave work.” I like to spend days with my family (especially now, helping my daughter during the school day), after I put her to bed- I work late into the night. It continues to be important to me that I make each bottle of sauce, which can be physically challenging. When tomatoes are in season I am sometimes making 1,000 bottles in a day, all with my own hands. My husband does a great job of reminding me to take breaks, keeps me hydrated and fed, and is always there to make me laugh.
I love learning from other women business owners, and in a way they are all my role models. I am lucky to host a podcast (Masoni & Marshall: The Meaningful Marketplace) with my greatest role model, Sarah Masoni, a food scientist at the Food Innovation Center. She has been my mentor since I started the business, and now we get to host a show together, we hope the food entrepreneurs are listening, feeling inspired, and can learn from all the makers out there.